Floyd Nolta
Collection of George Nolta - 10-24-03
From George Nolta
      My uncle Floyd had a very colorful aviation history. I believe he learned to fly during the First World War. He became very good friends with Jimmy Doolittle during this time, and the friendship continued into and after the Second World War.
     Floyd invented the process of sowing rice by airplane, which grew into the crop dusting industry. His "Nolta's Flying Service" in Willows, CA also developed the first aerial tanker for fighting forest fires.
      During WWII, he was assigned to a special motion picture squadron, where it was their job to make training films for new pilots in the Army Air Corp. For several years after the war, he worked as a pilot for Warner Bros. and M.G.M., flying in such movies as "30 Seconds Over Tokyo", "The Bride Came C.O.D.", "God is My Co-Pilot", and "Thunder in the East"
     I don't know the date when Floyd soloed, but I understand he was a member of the Quiet Birdmen, so I presume he qualified.

Announcing F. H. "Speed"
Nolta's Super Service Station---Formerly Watson's Service Station
Absolutely Latest and most Modern Lubricating Equipment
Tire Repairing and Complete Line of Specialties

Union Oil Products

Reverse Side of Clipping
     Hereís a newspaper ad, probably from the Willows Journal, for Floyd Noltaís service station. Date unknown, but must be from the 1920ís or early 1930ís. Just to make your day, hereís the prices on the back of the ad from a local grocery store:
Bacon - $.13/lb
Bunch vegetables - $.01/bunch (i.e. carrots, beets, turnips, green onions, radishes.)
Purex - $.10/qt.
     If you didnít know, Floyd got his name "Speed" by winning an automobile race. I think I have that newspaper clipping and will send it later.
From an unidentified newsclipping
Collection of George Nolta, 2-24-04l

How to Fly a Jenny
By Sam Stites
1. Inspection:
     It is best not to inspect this ship. If you do, you will never get into it.
2. Climbing into the cockpit:
     Do not attempt to enter the cockpit in the usual way. If you put your weight on the lower wing panel, it will fall off, and besides, your foot will go through the wing, probably spraining your ankle. The best way to get into the cockpit is to climb over the tail surface and crawl up the turtle deck. Be sure to brush the squirrel and gopher nests out of the seat. Take care not to cut your hand on the remnants of the windshield.
3. Instruments:
     After having carefully lowered yourself into the seat and groped in vain for a safety belt, take a good look at the instruments; both of them. The one on the right is the tachometer. It doesn't work. The other one is an altimeter, and functioned perfectly until 1918, when the hand fell off. Look at them now, for after the engine starts you won't be able to.
4. Starting the motor:
     The switch is on the right; it is not connected.' However it gives a sense of Confidence to the mechanic who is pulling the prop through to hear the switch click when you say "switch off". If for some reason the motor does start, don't get out to pick up the unconscious, and bleeding mechanic, he deserved it.
5. Warming up:
     Don't warm up the motor. It will only run a few minutes anyway, and the longer it runs on the ground, the less flying time you have. After the throttle is opened, do not expose any portion of your person beyond the edge of the cowling. It is no fun to have you face slapped by a flying rocker arm or to be peppered by small bits of piston rings, valves, etc., that are continually coming out of what were once exhaust stacks.
6. The Take-off:
     The take-off is in direct defiance of all the laws of nature. If you have a passenger, don't try it.
7. The Flight:
     After you have dodged through the trees, windmills, and chimneys until you are over the lake, you will see a large hole in the left side of the fuselage. This hole is to allow the stick to be moved far enough to make a left turn.
8. The Landing:
     The landing is made in accordance with the laws of gravity. If the landing gear doesn't collapse on the first bounce, don't worry, it will on the second. After you have extracted yourself from the wreckage and helped the spectators put out the fire, light a cigarette and with a nonchalant shrug, walk (don't run) disdainfully away.
Collection of George Nolta - 10-24-03

via email from George Nolta, 8-27-05
I've started to do a little research on the old Willows Journal archives, which are stored on microfilm at the Willows Library. I've found a few items which might be of interest to those of you who have as much of a pathological interest in historical trivia as I do:

1. On Tues., Feb. 17, 1942, a short article said: "NOLTA HEADS WORK OF REMOVING SIGNS - Floyd Nolta, local flier, has been designated by the Civil Aeronautics Authority, to be in charge of work of removing identification signs here, which might aid enemy aviators. Most of such signs, Nolta said, are on rooftops."
2. We've established the date of Floyd Nolta's re-entry into the Army Air Corp as July 1942. In the June 30, 1942 edition, a short article says:
"NOLTA JOINS U.S. ARMY AIR FORCE: Floyd Nolta, of the Willows Flying Service, has joined the United States Army Air Forces, and will report to Mather Field for advanced training. Nolta has operated the flying service at Willows for a number of years."
The next day on July 1st, a front page article said:
"FLYING SERVICE HEAD HONORED. Floyd Nolta, president of the Willows Flying service, who is leaving Friday to join the Army Air Forces, was the honored guest af the Willows Airport Association at a dinner held last night at the Blue Gum Lodge.
Nolta, a veteran of World War I, is widely known throughout the United States for his flying ability, and is one of the founders, and most active members of the Willows Airport Association.
Under the sponsorship of the association, air shows were started as early as 12 years ago when they were the only air shows on the Pacific coast. At the last six shows, not less than 100 ships participated.
Members of the association are Robert Boyd, president; Robert Poland, secretary/treausurer; and Floyd Nolta, Carl Oehler and A. J. Hoever. District Attorney Clyde Larimer , county chairman of defense, was a guest."
(As I learned a few months ago from Ralph Swindle, who was Floyd's squadron commander at Mather, Floyd was only stationed there about 2 or 3 months before he was recruited by Paul Mantz to go to L.A. and join the Army's "First Motion Picture Unit", which was formed to make training and morale bulding movies for the Army.)
3. On Fri., March 6, 1942, a front page article said:
"1ST PLANE SOWING OF WAR IS STARTED - First airplane sowing of the war in the Sacramento Valley was done yesterday for Lester Willard on his ranch near Delevan, where clover was planted. The planes are being flown by Floyd and Dale Nolta of the Willows Flying Service. The work is done under strict government supervision, with each ship closely guarded."
(Surprising to me, but the ag airplanes were considered to be very security-sensitive. For awhile, they were banned from flying because of some kind of security concerns. Were they afraid the Japs would steal a Stearman and bomb Artois with a bag of rice?)
4. On Tues., May 12, 1942, a major item on the front page was:
"TAKES NOLTA'S CAR; NOW HE'S IN JAIL - Jake Eads, about 25, is held in the county jail at Colusa on charges of stealing the automobile of Dale Nolta, rice-sowing pilot for the Willows Flying Service. Eads had been employed by the firm as member of the ground crew at Arbuckle, and took Nolta's car following work last night. He was captured at Red Bluff, after driving the car here and picking up his belongings. Investigators said that in his car they found literature showing him to be a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses sect, which opposes war."
5. On Thu., Feb. 5, 1942, an article says:
"NOLTA DISPLAYS MOVIES TO LEGION - An amateur movie photographer's pictures in color were shown Tuesday night to the Willows American Legion post by Floyd "Speed" Nolta, who has taken scenes from Mt. Shasta to Mexico City. Some of the shots are of Hollywood actors met by Nolta while his airplane was being used last year in pictures. The exhibition was a part of the series of programs added to the Legion meetings this year by Commander H. E. Holmes."
(Now wouldn't it be nice to find those old movies now? I wonder where they ended up? The movie in question most likely was "The Bride Came C.O.D.", with James Cagney and Bette Davis.)


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